There I was the other day wondering why I don’t spend more time agonising over plant choices for the interior of my house. It’s a well-recognised phenomenon, particularly in Ireland, that our gardens are as much for gazing upon and admiring from the inside as they are for immersing oneself in on the outside.
So, bearing that in mind, if we are intent on exposing ourselves to plants and all their implicit goodness why then don’t we devote more time to surrounding ourselves with them in the interior of our homes, where we invariably spend the bulk of our lives?
In this regard I must confess I am as negligent as the next person; a few sparse and unloved big leafed house plants pepper the open plan space and beyond that, well, not all that much really.
Which is a pity, because there is a big wide world of horticultural goodness to be enjoyed inside as well as out. And as is the case in this internet age of ours, it’s not difficult to find inspiration. A quick scan of any indoor plant supplier’s website will reveal a wide range of potentials ; bonsai, citrus trees, cacti & succulents, carnivorous plants, flowering plants, foliage plants, hanging plants, large leafed plants.
And the crucial point here is that this could be about so much more than just looking good. The health benefits of indoor plants are inarguable. So, if we expand our thinking about indoor plants outwards to include the environment where many of us now spend such a sizable portion of our time, the office, then we can really switch onto and tap into the array of beneficial impacts that indoor plants can provide.
Repeated environmental studies and air quality sampling has proven that the air quality inside some older buildings can be up to 10 times poorer than on the outside. Inadequately ventilated buildings, sometimes fully sealed buildings, air-conditioned buildings have a history of providing their users and inhabitants with an air supply of, at best, questionable and, at worst, dangerous quality.
There are many symptoms which might suggest that a person is spending too much time in a sick building. Those symptoms include itchy, irritated, dry or watery eyes, nasal congestion, throat soreness or tightness, dry, itchy skin or unexplained rashes, headache, lethargy, or difficulty concentrating.
That’s right, a sick building. The phrase Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.
The potential causes of Sick Building Syndrome are many. Inadequate ventilation, chemical contaminants from indoor sources, outdoor chemical contaminants entering through air intake systems, natural or biological toxins.
Now quite obviously the permanent cure for severe cases of Sick Building Syndrome is a little more elaborate than introducing a few plants but they certainly have a major part to play as part of a wider strategy.
Plants feed themselves by synthesising carbon dioxide, water and light energy to produce glucose. The central feature of this chemical reaction is the removal of carbon dioxide and the production of oxygen. As well as absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, plants also eliminate significant amounts of benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. Researchers at NASA, no less, suggest that efficient air cleaning is accomplished with as little as one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space.
One plant per hundred square feet. It’s not a lot is it? Introducing plants to the workplace has potentially beneficial mental, as well as physical, health benefits. Plants in the office have been proven to reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue. Plants also improve concentration and productivity with numerous studies showing that tasks are completed faster and fewer mistakes are made when plants are present. Some studies have even related increased creativity to the presence of plants.
Plants. They’re just magic. Inside and out.